Arbitrary Requirements Have Got To Go

Twice a year, UVM stu-dents engage in one of the most traditional as-pects of higher education – we choose our classes. Or rath-er our classes are chosen for us. The university has a list of general education requirements that a student must fulfill in order to graduate. This is a practical demonstration of a liberal educa-tion framework. We get a wealth of knowledge that is supposed to create a breadth of information and instruction that will shape our minds and create informed citizens. That antiquated idea just no longer holds for what higher edu-cation has become – a force of social mobility. We as students go to get the money and futures we desire. While the general education requirements are supposed to maintain campuses as institutions of social and democratic equality, they are actually the antagonizer. Many students see these re-quirements as a chore, and its limiting the ability of students to choose classes outside their area of concentration that might actu-ally develop interest in new sub-ject matter or areas. For example, the University requires that a student take two physical education requirements. That makes sense in theory, since part of being a productive mem-ber of society means staying healthy (at least to help a dete-riorated health care system). Yet the University allows classes like bowling (which I would consider a sport with about as much ath-letic values as ice fishing). The University also only re-quires two credits, which could only give a student “physical” action for two days a week for a year. And I have never heard of a student taking PE credits because they wanted to exercise. Maybe those should be replaced with a 6-week class on nutrition and healthy living, which, as anyone that has been to the dining hall knows, is lacking from students. The university also requires a student take three diversity requirements starting next year. I do believe that the univer-sity should foster a diversity of knowledge, but this might be too much. Diversity in race, sexual orientation and gender should not be made exclusive to the classroom. There are other ways that time and energy of both the school and the student body could learn about identity politics than a classroom. The University requires that subjects be forced upon stu-dents. I believe that the Univer-sity should respect the autonomy of each of its individual students and work with rather then above them. I am not advocating idle-ness, rather a renewed rigor that is tailored for each student. By making some of its require-ments so straightforward with little flexibility, we lose a genera-tion of individuals who see educa-tion as a means to an end, not the end itself. That seems to violate one of the basic tenets of college, shaping the individual. Some students can get more out of a sociology class then Math 17, why deny them that right? Benjamin Franklin once said “much of the learning now in use is not of much use.” While I believe that all knowl-edge has a value, the mistake with the general requirement system is that it mistakes value for uni-versal value. I want to believe that college is not tryouts for the “chores” of our future – I want to believe in learning and experience and get-ting the most of my experience. I know that I received a fine education and have developed a new sense of my mind and self, but making sure my education fits the standardized rubric was not what got me there.